It's an old Yiddishor was it Chinese?axiom: Live long enough and you will be humbled.
With eight 500cc world championships alone, and 68 wins in what is currently known as MotoGP, Giacomo Agostini has reigned over Grand Prix as the championship's most dominant rider in modern history.
"Ago" was blessed with both great success on the racetrack and also good health. With some of his contemporaries, you shake hands at every opportunity because you're not quite sure whenor even ifyou'll see them again. Ago, though, is sort of timeless. Even at 72 he has the health of man 20 years younger, and also a certain indefatigable vitality. It wasn't that long ago he showed up at Daytona with his girlfriend who looked like she was barely 21. Moreover, that was the year he inferred to the redneck operating the Daytona Beach tow truck that his illegally parked rental car should not be towed because those sort of pesky rules and laws don't really apply to him. "I am Giacomo Agostini" he said, in explanation. (The trucker cap had never heard of him, and still hooked the car.)
When Valentino Rossi began to ascend through the all-time winners list, passing Hailwood, Doohan, Read and Redman, Ago started, maybe for the first time, to act slightly concerned for his legacy. When Rossi went into the low 100s (Ago has a tally of 122 GP wins in all classes), Ago remarked that, try as he might, Rossi could not duplicate his F750 win, so his surpassing him on the all-time win list was moot in a way; wasn't it? Then Rossi peaked, broke his leg and sold his soul to Ducati, the latter dooming his chances at overtaking Ago. Rossi is now at 106, and some predict his number will be somewhere around 110 when he calls it a career.
Marc Marquez, on the other hand, this lad has motive, opportunity and the capability to make a hard run at Ago's record. Marquez is just 21 years old and is already tied for eleventh on the all time win list with 42 wins.
Assessing Marquez's chances at railing out 122 or so wins is very easy because, seemingly, nothing is out of the realm of possibility for Marquez. 122? Just 122? In eighteen months he has changed the sport in almost an immeasurable way. Those who were once aliens are now mortal. Pass Mick Doohan's cumulative win record for one season? Really, not much of a problem, thus far. 68 premier class wins is, at this time, more of a "when" not "if" question for that the lad who we suspect has not even begun shaving with any regularity.
At this point, Ago's good health is worth more than the silver spoon he was born clutching. Ago will live for, we hope, a good many more years, decades if his luck holds.
But if he lives that long he may be in for a late shock via that young Marquez. If not for premier class wins, then on the list he has dominated for nearly his entire adult life: the all time GP winner roster.